Feeds

Rogue knob could ground space shuttle Atlantis

Wedged between dashboard and window, and refusing to budge

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

NASA is pondering how to remove a rogue knob which has firmly wedged itself between a window and the dashboard of space shuttle Atlantis - an apparently minor affair which could actually result in a six-month delay in the venerable vehicle's STS-129 mission to the International Space Station, or even see the shuttle grounded for good.

According to NASAspaceflight.com, the offending part is "a quick shoe mount knob from a crew work lamp" which was discovered during maintenance work at the shuttle's Orbiter Processing Facility.

The knob is resting between the dashboard panel (pics and full details here) and the window's inner pressure pane and has caused some damage to the glass. Accordingly, it "must be removed to evaluate pane condition before flight", NASA has concluded.

In case you're wondering just how this bothersome piece of metal came to be so firmly entrenched, "changes in pressure for pre-launch to orbit operations, leading to the expansion of the orbiter’s skin, is once again deemed as the root cause".

NASA elaborates: “Crew module [CM] skin expands while in orbit due to 14.7 psi internal pressure; flight deck floor deflection may also contribute to the relative movement between the console’s dash and the CM window area.

“Gap between the dashboard closeout panel and the window may have opened wider while in orbit... Vibration from ferry flight* might have wedged knob further."

NASA has already tried to dislodge the knob by cooling it with dry ice, without success. It's planning to try the same technique coupled to a slight pressurisation of the crew module, with a few fall-back options: Remove the dashboard; cut part of it away; expand the gap between dash and window with an airbag or slice the knob apart with a drill.

All of these have their pros and cons, as NASAspaceflight.com explains in greater detail, but the bottom line is that if the damage to the pressure pane proves "unacceptable for flight", NASA is looking at an estimated "up to and over six months" delay in getting Atlantis ready for it next mission.

The "absolute worst case scenario" is that Atlantis would simply be retired, leaving Discovery and Endeavour to complete the ISS missions. This would mean a shuttle launch manifest stretch "deep into 2011".

Atlantis's STS-129 mission, carrying two Express Logistics Carriers to the ISS, is slated for 12 November. Its last flight, STS-132, is pencilled for 14 May 2010, when it ends its career delivering the Integrated Cargo Carrier and Mini Research Module to the orbiting outpost.

Discovery has three dates in its diary: STS-128 (18 August), STS-131 (18 March 2010) and STS-134 (16 September 2010).

Endeavour will bow out following the delayed STS-127 (11 July), STS-130 (4 February 2010) and STS-133 (29 July 2010). NASA's full ISS launch manifest is here. ®

Bootnote

*From Edwards Air Force Base in California to Kennedy Space Center earlier this month.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.